Jane Austen revised her early novels at Chawton cottage in Hampshire after moving there in 1809. My painting shows the sisters coming out of the cottage to go on a walk. Jane is wearing a Tam with a red feather cockade. At a conference in Lyme Regis, Diana Shervington, a descendant of Jane Austen's brother Edward, showed this wonderful adornment for her hat and I decided to include it in my painting.
Jane was very fond of walking, a pursuit she enjoyed as well as her heroines.
The following is an extract from Pride and Prejudice. Miss Bingley comments on the fact that Miss Elizabeth Bennet has walked from her house at Longbourn to Netherfield.
"She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild."
"She did indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!"
"Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it, not doing its office."
"Your picture may be very exact, Louisa," said Bingley; "but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice."
"You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure," said Miss Bingley; "and I am inclined to think that you would not wish to see your sister make such an exhibition."
"To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ancles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! what could she mean by it? It seems to me to shew an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum."
"It shews an affection for her sister that is very pleasing," said Bingley.
"I am afraid, Mr. Darcy," observed Miss Bingley, in a half-whisper, "that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes."
"Not at all," he replied; "they were brightened by the exercise.
Ooh, those Bingley sisters are so horrid!